Train or plane – what’s ideal for your next business trip?

When it comes time to travel for business, make sure you have all the facts to decide whether to travel by train or plane.

When it comes time to travel for business, make sure you have all the facts to decide whether to travel by train or plane.

By Liudmila Buga

travel by train or plane

The increased focus on sustainability means that many business travelers would now rather travel by rail than by air. The COVID 19 pandemic has highlighted the need for companies to embrace more sustainable travel options. This includes deciding whether or not to schedule a business trip, as well as a significant shift in attitudes toward environmentally friendly modes of transportation for business travel. Employees place great importance on reducing their companies’ carbon footprint. 

But does that mean business travelers should prefer rail in all scenarios? In our article, we explain when rail travel is worthwhile and when it’s preferable to take a plane for business travel, as well as what you should consider for yourself and your employees.

When to take the train instead of flying or driving

Post-pandemic has seen a rise in airfare between European hubs and together with concern over lowering CO2 emissions are helping to drive a significant shift to trains for business travel, and this appears to be a consistent trend.

More and more companies are opting for rail travel within Europe as higher airfares force their employees to switch to trains. Lower CO2 emissions are also proving tempting for companies looking to meet their sustainability goals. Find the top 10 rail routes for business travel in Europe here.

Is it better to travel by train or plane?

You can’t talk about the current business travel panorama without mentioning sustainability. In an era of constantly available ESG data, there are many reasons to prioritize sustainability goals.

If you travel regularly for business, it makes perfect sense to choose rail travel where possible to reduce your own carbon footprint and that of your company. Statistically, domestic flights are not particularly environmentally friendly. For example, they emit about 254 g per passenger per km. That’s six times as much as on domestic rail routes.

One of the biggest advantages of a business trip by train is that you can work during the journey and thus make the most of every second of your trip. That’s not possible at all in a car and only to a limited extent when traveling by plane.

Many train companies offer Wi-Fi access during the journey, which is great for business travelers. This means you can make the most of your travel time to prepare for meetings or answer your emails. This time is time gained and therefore worth its weight in gold.

While jets are still much faster than trains, so you can save time on trips of more than 600 miles, there are many city connections where it’s actually faster to take the train when you factor in total travel time – i.e., getting to the airport, tighter security checks, travel time to and from the airport, flight delays, and so on.

Is it cheaper to travel by train or plane in Europe?

With the current economic climate, we’re all looking very closely at spending. If you’re looking to cut your budget and spend your money more efficiently, traveling by train can be cheaper than traveling by plane or car. Additional offers such as season tickets or BahnCards in Germany, for example, provide further discounts and benefits for companies.

Meanwhile, it is becoming increasingly common for airlines to offset the CO2 emissions of flights – even directly during the booking process. However, this leads to an additional price increase, so that short-haul flights are no longer worthwhile in terms of price.

The train network in Europe is very well developed and almost every city can be reached by train. There are even sleeper trains that can comfortably reach destinations farther away, but may not be the best choice for business travelers.

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If your train journey is less than six to eight hours, the train is usually the best choice.

Train travel is generally less expensive than flights as countries in Europe have made, and continue to make, significant investments in improving and speeding up their rail networks. For example, the train route between Berlin and Munich has been improved and the travel time between the two cities has been reduced from six to four hours. New direct connections are also being added all the time, for example from Milan to Frankfurt.

When to replace a train ride with a plane ride?

In Europe, it is often not worth flying because the rail network is extremely well developed. You can save a lot of time and travel comfortably from station to station instead of having to check in your suitcase and be at the airport several hours before departure to have enough time for security and passport control.

Even on the East Coast of the United States, train travel can be worthwhile, although it is often expensive. It is common for commuters to take the train into NYC from Connecticut, New Jersey and other surrounding areas. In the Nation’s capital, there are many commuters arriving from Virginia and Baltimore thanks to many train connections. On the West Coast, however, it’s a different story. There simply aren’t enough connections to make train travel feasible for passenger travel.

For long distance travel, air travel is by far the fastest mode of transportation. Cars, buses, and even high-speed trains can’t really keep up. It can also avoid man-made problems like traffic jams. Here we have compiled the 10 best tips for business travel by plane.

Train vs. plane safety

Airplane safety compared to rail is a hotly debated topic. And the answer depends on how safety is measured. If you look at fatalities per billion miles traveled, airplanes are clearly safer. If you look at fatalities per trip, trains are almost six times safer! But what is clear is that both modes of transportation are extremely safe compared to buses and cars.

Comparing highway statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration with aviation data from the National Transportation Safety Board, the average odds of being killed in a car accident over a lifetime is 1 in 98. For air travel, the corresponding odds were 1 in 7,178.

Contrary to many Hollywood blockbusters, flying is one of the safest ways to travel. With the increase in terrorist attacks over the past decade, safety has reached an all-time high. You can be sure that your plane has been checked several times before you even board.

Rail is also one of the safest modes of transportation for our everyday mobility. This is also confirmed by the annual accident studies of the Federal Statistical Office. According to these, the risk of being killed in a traffic accident is 63 times higher when traveling by car than when traveling by train.

Train or plane: what’s more sustainable?

Aircraft are responsible for about 3 percent of total global climate emissions. A single flight generates an average of three tons of carbon dioxide per passenger. If the aircraft is not fully occupied, the figure rises dramatically. Flights produce greenhouse gasses – mainly carbon dioxide (CO2) – through the combustion of fuel. These contribute to global warming when they enter the atmosphere.

Ticket class also makes a difference when flying. According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), CO2 emissions per passenger per mile traveled on long-haul flights are about three times higher in business class and four times higher in first class. This is due to the fact that seats take up more space.

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In comparison, trains are always more sustainable than airplanes. For example, a journey from London to Madrid by train emits 43 kg of CO2 per passenger, compared with 118 kg by plane.

However, the range between train and aircraft emissions varies and depends on several factors, including the type of train. For electric trains, the way in which the electricity they consume is generated is used to calculate CO2 emissions.

In a country like France, where 75% of electricity is generated using nuclear power, a train ride from Paris to Bordeaux (about 500 km) emits only 4.4 kg of carbon dioxide per passenger. Comparing these figures with Poland, where 80% of grid electricity is generated from coal, a trip between the Polish cities of Gdansk and Katowice (about 465 km) emits 61.8 kg of CO2.

But beware of sustainability myths! Sustainability is currently on everyone’s lips, and companies as well as individuals are under enormous social pressure to be more green. But this is sometimes not so easy in a world of greenwashing.

In conclusion, there is a lot to consider when planning business travel. That’s why you should prepare well for all travel, whether by plane or train.

This is where a travel management platform like GetGoing can be quite helpful to plan effectively and effortlessly.

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